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Sleep deprivation increases possibility of workplace incidents by 70%

Sandy Smith

Sleep deprivation increases the likelihood of a workplace incident by 70 percent, according to the National Sleep Foundation, making it one of the most overlooked occupational hazards. The effects of fatigue often have been compared to the effects of alcohol, resulting in impaired judgment and poor performance.                                                               

According to a study from the National Safety Council, 43 percent of adults admit they may be too tired to function safely at work. 

The American Safety Council has released a guide titled, 10 Sleep Deprivation Hazards on the Worksite, that includes the top 10 dangers for tired workers and offers guidance on how to monitor sleep health and safety issues in the workplace. These hazards are: 

  1. Improper Safety Enforcement and Major Injury  
  1. Impaired Motor Skills  
  1. Poor Decision Making and Risk Taking  
  1. Poor Memory and Information Processing  
  1. Falling Asleep on the Job  
  1. The Special Risk for Shift Workers  
  1. Inability to Deal with Stress  
  1. Sleep Deprivation Reduces Productivity  
  1. Sleep Deprivation Impacts Workers in the Long-Term  
  1. Overlooking Signs of Fatigued Workers 


According to the guide, these are the signs of sleep deprivation that workers, managers and EHS professionals should watch for: 

  • - Loss of appetite 
  • - Complaints of headaches and body pain 
  • - Weariness 
  • - Giddiness 
  • - Mood swings or emotional outbursts 
  • - Sluggishness 
  • - Paranoia 
  • - Forgetfulness 
  • - Weight gain 
  • - Loss of balance or hand-eye coordination 


The guide highlights an incident that occurred in 2005, in which OSHA fined BP a record-breaking $87 million for ignoring safety problems that led to an explosion at a Texas refinery. Escaping gas from an octane processing tower ignited, resulting in the death of 15 workers and the injury of 170 others.  

“Though employer oversight harbored a dangerous work environment,” the guide notes, “investigations also found that some employees had worked 12 hours a day for nearly 30 days straight, a fact that may have impacted the way that the employees reacted and responded to the situation.”  

Images from The American Safety Council.


May 29, 2018 @ 02:52 PM EDT Health & Safety

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